For over 35 years Dr. Ken Nordberg has been one of the leading experts on hunting white-tailed deer — many say, “the leading expert.”
At this time — he is nearly 80 — Doc is semi-retired but is still hunting, writing & publishing books, and writing articles for the outdoor magazine, Midwest Outdoors.
He is the creator of a very popular series of videos called Whitetail Hunter’s World. (They came as a set of 8 VHS tapes, 16 hours — published in 1986.)
He is the author of well over 800 published magazine articles — one estimate is close to 1,000. His articles have primarily been about whitetail deer hunting and black bear hunting. While he has been published in just about all major outdoor publications, the majority of his articles have been published in Fins & Feathers, Sportsman’s Press, Bow Hunting World, Bear Hunting Magazine, and Midwest Outdoors.
He is the author of a series of 9 very famous — best-selling — deer hunting books entitled, “The Whitetail Hunter’s Almanac.” (Doc is currently in the process of writing his 10th Edition.)
Doc is famous for popularizing the use of tree stands. Beginning in the early 1970’s, Doc showed deer hunters how to build and hunt from tree stands long before commercial tree stands became available. Back then, other outdoor writers did not write about them. Essentially, Doc, his daughter Peggy, and his son John, were the very first hunters to use “modern” tree stands. Yes, before them, there were a handful of hunters that climbed trees, climbed windfalls, and nailed steps to trees to get up to a big tree branch. However, before Doc started popularizing tree stands, deer hunters just weren’t using them. Back then, the old-timers were very skeptical of using tree stands. They wanted to walk around. They didn’t know how to predict where the bucks would be. To them, sitting in a tree stand, picking it’s location ahead of time, that just didn’t make sense. They figured they needed to walk around until they jumped one. At hunting shows, the old-timer quote went something like, “Naaa, I’ll never hunt from a tree stand. I do it the old-fashioned way!” However, Doc changed deer hunting forever by getting hunters to adopt the use of tree stands. This started with the early articles he had published in Fins & Feathers, and it really took off after his first Almanac came out in 1988. His tree stand research, his tree stand hunting techniques, writings on how to hunt from tree stands, and his evangelizing at hunting shows really made an impact. Later, Doc was also instrumental in helping the early tree stand manufacturers — and scent manufactures — sell their products and get their industries started.
Doc’s original biological research and writings defined the very important, “5 Stages of the Rut.” (Doc has also called them the “5 Phases of the Rut.”) This was a major turning point in history of deer hunting. While he talked and wrote about the details of the rut before 1989, the real turning point was that year, when his second Almanac came out. That second Almanac was devoted entirely to rut, sold like crazy, and became famous amongst deer hunters. Doc had started a process of changing deer hunting from being based upon traditions and myths to being based upon research and science. Over the years, many writers have renamed the 5 phases of the rut with their own coined terms, but Doc’s original research has prevailed, not only with deer hunters but also with deer biologists. Understanding the 5 phases of the rut is critical for any young deer hunter that desires becoming an expert trophy-class buck hunter.
In the late 1980’s it had become increasingly obvious to hunters that Doc was right and they should give tree stand hunting a try. However, Doc knew most hunters still did not understand how to correctly hunt with them. (His mailbox was always stuffed with letters from hunters with questions on how to hunt with them.) Doc knew he needed to cover tree stand hunting in depth. So, he dedicated his 3rd Almanac entirely to how to correctly hunt whitetails using tree stands. That was when tree stand hunting really took off! It was like a light switch had been thrown. The old-timers moaned, screamed and complained. Success rates for getting trophy-class bucks soared. Suddenly, everybody became an “expert” on how to hunt from a tree stand. They all got their tree stand hunting knowledge from Doc.
Doc continued his original biological research with extensive studies on, “signs.” (His fourth Almanac, 1991, explained the various deer signs in depth.) He did a number of statistical studies, precisely measuring deer that had been harvested. His research enabled hunters to classify whitetails based upon: the size & pattern of tracks, the size & type of droppings, the size & type of antler rubs, the size & type of ground scrapes, the size & pattern of beds, and other less obvious variables. Now buck hunters know that a track longer than a certain size (3 1/2 inches in northern U.S. states & Canada) is a buck track, and could not been made by a doe. Now buck hunters understand the meaning of “railroad tracks” in the snow, and how to hunt that big buck based upon that one critical detail.
His biological research dispelled a large number of myths about deer hunting — especially myths pertaining to scents and ground scrapes. Based on Doc’s extensive, hunting-related research, buck hunters now understand ground scrapes are not for attracting does, but are markers for discouraging other bucks from invading established buck breeding ranges. Now, deer hunters understand it is impossible to completely mask or eliminate human odors — even when they climb into very high tree stands.
Over the years, Doc has developed a large number of sophisticated hunting tactics & techniques. In the old days, hunters mostly just wandered around the woods, or did large group drives. By the 1940’s, the skills of the famous woodsmen — hunters like Daniel Boone & Davy Crockett — had been long lost. Hunters had come to rely on high-powered repeating weapons and the ability to shoot accurately at running deer they jumped. Obviously, the most important deer hunting technique Doc developed was the use of tree stands. This allowed hunters to easily take unsuspecting deer at short range. This greatly reduced crippling losses. However, using tree stands requires its own skill and knowledge — and Doc covered every detail. Over the years, Doc closely studied how the timber wolf hunts. He used the wolf’s methods to advance human hunting techniques. In recent years, he has taught hunters how to hunt from natural, ground-level blinds, in a manner similar to using tree stands. This is a very sophisticated technique using portable pack-packed stools that allows a hunter to greatly improve their odds of taking trophy-class bucks. Over the years Doc has repeatedly explained: hunters get too set in their ways, repeatedly hunting in the same way, day after day, year after year. Deer are smart. They quickly adapt to a hunter’s technique — to hunters’ techniques. Doc has repeatedly stressed that using just tree stands, or just ground blinds, or overusing any technique quickly looses its effectiveness. So, Doc recommends using both tree stands & ground blinds — as well as other techniques. By the way, the Nordberg’s never use large party, old-fashioned drives. The effectiveness of that hunting technique — especially for getting big bucks — was lost generations ago. It is unheard of for anybody to get a trophy-class buck with a big drive anymore. Together, as a group, the Nordberg hunting party invented the “Gentle Nudge” drive technique, and Doc has made this modern drive technique famous. This is a sophisticated method for taking mature bucks — much more effective than large group drives. Other techniques Doc has developed have names like: Mile-a-Day Still Hunting (1992), Portable Stump Hunting (1992), Johnny-on-the-spot Buck Hunting (1994), Cover-all-bases Buck Hunting (1994), and Mid-hunt Cruising (1995). (Doc’s technique of “cruising” on “cruise trails” to discover the latest fresh sign is a wolf-inspired hunting tactic.)
Other of Doc’s well-known tactics include:
- changing stand site locations once or twice daily,
- his non-threatening walking technique,
- understand when whitetails switch from grasses to browse, and hunt the appropriate feeding areas,
- for mature bucks, there is no better lure than a real doe in estrus — therefore — key on doe-family feeding areas during Rut Phase III (the Primary Breeding Phase) — not “Rut Route” ground scrapes & antler rubs that hunters should key on during the earlier Rut Phase II (the Breeding Range Establishment Phase),
- always hunt within easy shooting range, downwind or crosswind, of very fresh tracks and/or droppings made by unalarmed mature bucks (or other deer),
- and, more important than any single tactic, Doc has stressed that hunters should hunt with an unpredictable pattern of tactics. This is an especially critical factor for consistently getting mature bucks.
Unfortunately, there is something that was very interesting about Doc that the young hunters will never get to experience. At hunting shows Doc had the ability to, “clear the floor” when he gave his seminars. As the featured seminar speaker, his seminar presentations were legendary. Literally, people running booths at the show would take these “opportunities” to go to the restroom, get some food, or go to their vehicles. When Doc’s seminars were over, the isle for his booth was simply clogged with people wanting to purchase his products and get a chance to talk with him. It truly was amazing to witness.
While Doc discontinued his very popular Buck Hunting School in 2005, the information from his school — which was the longest form of his famous presentations — can still be seen in a 10-disc DVD collection. (It is truly a wealth of information that any buck hunter would love to know.)
It is highly unlikely that any other single person has helped more deer hunters become better hunters than Doc. It is highly unlikely that any other single person has changed the face of deer hunting more than Doc. In essence, Dr. Nordberg’s work (his biological research, teachings, articles, books, videos, ebooks and DVDs) has forever changed deer hunting — in essence creating, “the Modern Era of Deer Hunting.”
Dr. Ken Nordberg has published 3 editions of a bear book entitled, “do-it-yourself Black Bear Baiting & Hunting” (1990, 2001, 2014). His third edition, an ebook, even incorporates HD video. These books have become the black bear hunter’s bible. His original out-of-print 1st and 2nd editions — originally $10 books — have been resold online for over $900! He is highly regarded by North American black bear hunters for creating one of the two most used methods of hunting black bears: that is, hunting black bears over a bait crib from a tree stand. His advanced refinements to this method — details like: the Rule of Six, six foot covering logs, and the use of positioning bait — have advanced this method of hunting black bears to be one of the most successful and exciting hunting experiences known. (Obviously, hunting with a pack of trained hounds is the other, older, major black bear hunting technique.)
While Doc discontinued his very popular Bear Hunting School in 2005, the information from his school can still be seen in a 2-disc DVD collection.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Doc met many hunters at hunting shows. Back then, that was the “social” method of marketing. Since Doc became semi-retired — approximately in the year 2000 — he has no longer been the featured speaker at the various deer hunting shows. As a result, the younger generation of hunters have not had a chance to meet and talk with Doc. Other than using email and his website, Doc has not used the various modern social media methods to communicate with has avid, you might say, “older” followers. Now — in addition to using mail, email and his website — Doc will use Twitter, this blog, and other social media to help the latest generation of young hunters become as good or even better hunters of deer and bear than their forefathers.
So, the current plan is this. Doc will now use Twitter for answering quick questions, this blog for answering short questions and for publishing short tips, will continue to write articles of intermediate length for his website and Midwest Outdoors, and will continue to write books on the bigger, longer topics. As time goes by, Doc’s son John will continue to post Doc’s 800–1,000 older articles to the Article Archive on Doc’s website. Together, Doc and his son John will republish Doc’s older out-of-print books in ebook format. The question of reprinting the older out-of-print books in paperback form is still up in the air.
If you are a young hunter, welcome! You will greatly appreciate learning from one of the greatest outdoorsmen of the last 80 years. If you an older fan of Doc, welcome back!